[Previous Months][Date Index][Thread Index][Join - Register][Login]
[Message Prev][Message Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]

[IPk] Pigs beta cells

I've just stumbled across this snippet in the 23 June 2001 edition of The
Economist - in its Technology Quarterly (anyone else here read their
magazines 2 weeks after they arrive? ;-) (You can read the whole article
online at http://www.economist.com. Do a search on minimed - but you may
have to register with the site. Not sure...)

The MiniMed bit is not exactly news - we're eagerly awaiting the big link
up between sensor and pump. But the pigs beta cells are interesting...

The body electric

Despite its ingenuity, the mechanics of the natural heart are relatively
straightforward. Even severed from nerves, it will continue to beat when
placed in a bucket of correctly salted water. By contrast, other organs of
the body are more multifunctional. And simulating them requires more
complicated equipment.

Take the pancreas. This senses levels of glucose in the blood and releases
insulin accordingly. MiniMed, a firm based in Northridge, California,
manufactures external insulin pumps that can be programmed by patients to
deliver appropriate doses of insulin. It is also testing a sensor that can
continuously monitor blood sugar levels. Once the company mates these two
technologies, the external pump could automatically gauge and administer
microdoses of insulin. MiniMed hopes to make an implantable
pump-and-sensor, thus erasing all evidence of the disease and its cure.

Nature's own materials

But designing and building such sensors and chemical pumps is costly. One
alternative is to use nature's own equivalents-ie, living cells. Circe
Biomedical of Lexington, Massachusetts, is testing an implantable
"bio-artificial" pancreas that contains living pancreatic cells taken from
pigs. The patient's blood flows through a graft into a membraneous tube
that is surrounded by the pig pancreatic tissue. Through the membrane, the
cells detect the level of glucose in the human bloodstream and release
insulin as required. But since the pig cells are encased in a plastic
housing, the patient's immune system never detects their presence-and
therefore never mounts an attack. Every few months, the supply of pig
pancreas cells is washed out and replenished through portholes that are
embedded in the patient's abdomen.

mailto:email @ redacted
for HELP or to subscribe/unsubscribe, contact: HELP@insulin-pumpers.org
help SUPPORT Insulin Pumpers http://www.insulin-pumpers.org/donate.shtml